Have you ever witnessed some un-sportsmanlike behavior from overzealous parents at the soccer field or baseball diamond and wondered why kids can’t just have fun playing sports anymore?
For some parents, grooming their child into a “star” athlete seems to be the college investment plan. All good coaches want to develop players to reach their full potentials, but fostering an ultra-competitive atmosphere is counterproductive. At least that’s the philosophy of i9 Sports, the newest addition to the many organizations offering youth sports programs in the Fishers/Geist area.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/7GkLzBbh9vc" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]“It’s really striving to create a positive, inclusive environment for all the kids,” said Eric Rhiver, who purchased an i9 franchise last year to serve the northern suburbs of Indianapolis.
Rhiver has been involved in youth sports locally and in Michigan for more than a decade, as a member of the Fishers Youth Soccer Board and heading up the volleyball program at Holy Spirit at Geist. He was drawn to the i9 program because of its emphasis on good sportsmanship.
The name i9 comes from the nine “I”s of the organization’s mission statement: imaginative, innovative, interactive, integrity-driven, impassioned, inspirational, instructional, insightful and inclusive. Making sure everyone gets equal playing time keeps all of the kids interested in the game, Rhiver said.
I9 offers traditional sports like soccer and basketball but also features more unusual sports like flag football and mini-volleyball, a smaller form of volleyball which makes the game more user-friendly for children. The popular i9 flag football league is the only one in the area for kids up to age 14. The good thing about the sport is that there are no scholarships for flag football, Rhiver jokes, so everyone involved can just have fun without the pressure.
“It’s very exciting for everyone,” he says. “They’re competing, but it’s a controlled environment.”
Rhiver says he likes to partner with other organizations who are “like-minded” when it comes to promoting integrity on and off the field. That’s why he runs many of his programs at Horizon Christian School, off of 79th Street near Fall Creek Road.
The Spring flag football league ends June 16, but a Summer flag football camp will be offered July 16-20 at Sahm Park in Castleton for ages 5-14. It’s being run by ex-NFL player Curtis Chambers, who formerly played for the San Diego Chargers.
Rhiver will be running a soccer camp at Sahm the same week for boys and girls ages 5-11, and HSE Cheerleader Heather Harmon will lead a cheerleading camp for girls ages 7-11. All of the summer camps are $90.
Tom Slyder, the head men’s basketball coach at Anderson University, will be running a basketball camp July 9-12 at Horizon for boys and girls entering 3rd through 8th grades. Rhiver is also hoping to set up a camp with former WNBA player Joy Harris.
When asked how he gathered so much talent for his coaching staff, Rhiver simply says, “Somebody’s looking out for me… Somebody’s guiding this thing for me.”
I9 is also offering an outdoor summer volleyball league, which will meet on Thursday evenings from June 21 to Aug. 2 at Horizon. The cost to participate is $70 for kids ages 7-16. For more information on these and other programs offered by i9 Sports, visit www.i9sports.com.
Photos and video by Brenda Staples, Brenda@atGeist.com.